July 1, 2011

Movies to Change the World (or at least Your World View). ~ Jennifer Sertl

Pop culture is an undeniably powerful influence on our behavior.  What if we could use this fact to our advantage?  What if we could use it to teach ethics & critical thinking?

Here are some movies that have enhanced my sense of belonging and compassion, along with some questions to foster introspection:

The Little Prince

(appropriate for ages 4+)

How do you describe friendship?
Have you ever known something without “proof”—how did you know?
What was the first living thing you felt responsible for?
Whom do you admire? Why do you admire that person/persons?
Have you ever been admired?

Summer Eleven

(appropriate for ages 8+)


Which of the characters did you most relate to?
Do you know someone who looks fine and happy on the surface but is dealing with a great deal in their personal life? Who? What are some of their challenges?
What are some acts of kindness you observed from the characters in the movie?
Has someone been kind to you? Share the experience.
Share an experience where you went out of your way to be kind to someone else.

Pay It Forward

(appropriate for ages 15+)


What does the world mean to you?
What does the world expect of you?
How often do you think of things that happen outside of your family or community?
Do you have a dream for the world?
Have you ever had an idea that took you by surprise?

Brokedown Palace

(appropriate for ages 15+)

Share an experience when you were jealous of a friend for liking someone you liked.
Have you ever felt danger in your “gut” but chose to trust someone, who ended up not being trustworthy?
How can you better listen to your “gut?”
What were some acts of compassion in this movie?
What is the biggest sacrifice you have ever made for friendship?


(appropriate for ages 18+ but intense!)

What characters surprised you the most?
Some characters seemed “good” but had a “shadow.”  Talk about the two sides of their personality.  Does this dualism remind you of anyone in your life?
Did any character’s actions surprise you in a positive way?
Do you have any prejudices? Where did these beliefs come from?

The Hours

(appropriate for aged 18+ but intense!)


The movie offers three different takes on Virginia Woolfs’ book Mrs. Dalloway.  Which of the stories resonated the most with your own life?
The “choice to live” and the “will to live” are central issues in this movie.  Have you ever known a person who has committed suicide or has wanted to?
If you are a parent, have you ever felt alienated from your child?  Have you ever felt out of touch with a parent?  What wisdom or comfort does this movie offer with regards to these issues?

Lions for Lambs

(appropriate for ages 15+)

What does “apathy” mean?
Have you seen or experienced apathy?
Did you like how the movie’s dilemma was resolved or would you create another ending?
What are some dilemmas you have faced in the past? If you could do things over again, with more wisdom, what would you do differently?
Are you facing any difficulties currently? How might your past decisions and their outcomes inform your choices now?

Life As a House

(appropriate for ages 15+)

What transformation did you see in this family throughout the course of the film?
Share a memory of an occurrence in your life that seemed terrible at first but ended up being a positive and enlightening experience.
What does reconciliation mean?  Explain the presence of reconciliation in the film.
Have you ever been given a second chance?  Explain.
How is your own house a metaphor for your life or your family?

The Tree of Life

(haven’t seen it yet, but want it on your radar)

I look forward to a day when there will be an Academy Award category like, “Best Picture for Fostering Humanity.”  These nine films would be my nominations —what would you pick?


Jennifer Sertl is president and founder of the organizational effectiveness company Agility3R.  She is also the internationally respected author of the book Strategy, Leadership and the Soul, published by Triarchy Press in 2010.  Recognized as a pioneer in the emerging field of corporate consciousness, her insight has stimulated paradigm shifts in executive leadership, employee engagement and shareholder responsibility within over thirty businesses in the transportation, telecommunications and health care industries – including Blue Cross Blue Shield, Frontier Communications, Genesee and Wyoming Inc., Optimax Systems Inc., Zotos International, Global Crossings, Landsman Development Company and Tabtronics.

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